Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman offers unique political perspective in national media upon release of Stealing Our Democracy

Monday, August 10th, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

Don Siegelman, who served as Alabama’s governor from 1999 to 2003, was wrongfully convicted in proceedings he calls politically motivated. He spent more than five years in prison, including, tragically, time in solitary confinement. Now released, Siegelman has become something quite dangerous in the political game: a motivated policy genius who doesn’t need to worry about popularity or elections. Siegelman is focused on pushing forward reform for our justice system, arguing that political corruption in our courts subverts the rights of defendants and that our prisoners are not receiving the care they desperately need, particularly during this pandemic. Siegelman’s important voice has been broadcast over the airwaves following the release of his new memoir, Stealing Our Democracy, including appearances on NPR stations and Sirius XM.

429-4 SOD cover 72ppiIn an interview with On Pointa program produced by NPR affiliate WBUR, Siegelman had this to say about his experience in the justice system: “If you believe that in every situation one should find a purpose . . . I quickly found mine. My purpose now is to expose what’s going on [in the justice system] and try to change it.” If charges can falsely be brought against a sitting governor, what’s to stop the same from happening to anyone?

As governor of Alabama, Siegelman was arguably one of the most influential political leaders in the heart of both the Confederacy and civil rights movement. He shouldered the weight of Alabama’s history of racial injustice with grace, meeting with and celebrating figures like Rosa Parks, C. T. Vivian, and the late John Lewis. Talking with Joe Madison, “The Black Eagle,” on Sirius XM, Siegelman recalled walking with Lewis and then-president Bill Clinton across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where Lewis had been brutally beaten on Bloody Sunday. Siegelman called it the most impactful period of his governorship, remarking that “we all now have to share a greater burden in the struggle for truth, justice, and freedom now that John Lewis and C. T. Vivian have passed.” He agrees with President Obama that the fight continues and that the best way to ensure Lewis’s legacy is to strengthen the legislation he fought so hard for.

And Siegelman isn’t the only one who thinks his prosecution was a sham. A piece in The Washington Spectator analyzes the evidence showing that Karl Rove and other key political figures were covertly involved with prosecutors in his case. Spectator reporter Lou Dubose comments, “If I didn’t know the story . . . I might have considered the title of Siegelman’s new book—Stealing Our Democracy—broad and overstated. Which it is not.” The title of Siegelman’s memoir isn’t an overstatement; unscrupulous politicians, many of them right-wing, are threatening our core values of government through their unlawful use of the justice system. Siegelman’s book is a cautionary tale.

Read more about Stealing Our Democracy here.

NewSouth author, pastor Alan Cross, reckons with Christian response to racism and coronavirus in national media

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020 by Suzanne La Rosa

Call it tough love. Alan Cross, a Southern Baptist pastor and NewSouth author, wants to hold accountable Christians who fail to follow the teachings of the Bible in times of social change and strife. Cross had this to say when 1603063501speaking with NPR recently about how Christians have responded to the killing of George Floyd: “The way that we live and work in the world, how we care for our communities, how we care for our neighbors. Those are all things that the Bible speaks really clearly about.” There is no Biblical or theological justification for not decrying police brutality of African Americans or the great social injustices they still experience.

In his book When Heaven and Earth Collide, Cross critically examines the role Southern churches historically played in the civil rights movement, when many actively supported segregation and racial violence. He claims that the Christian reluctance to denounce racism comes from the religion’s habit “to use God as a means to an end” to avoid uncomfortable conflict. As a Christian, he says, “you should see the pain of people around you and say ‘What can I do?’”

Cross has also recently become outspoken about the response of churches to coronavirus. As churches around the country ignore state and federal regulations and continue to hold worship services despite the risk of COVID infection, Cross argues that our focus must be on safely conducting ourselves before reopening prematurely. “Whether we fight this virus in such a way as to marshal all of our resources to save every life we can should not be open for discussion.” Pastors must balance the dual responsibilities of gathering for worship and putting others’ interests before their own—both Biblical tenets, our author asserts.

Learn more about Cross and his opinions at The New York Times, The Bulwark, NPR, and WBHM. When Heaven and Earth Collide is available for purchase from NewSouth Books and your favorite physical and online booksellers.

Sidney Lanier’s legacy in question with school renaming

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020 by Suzanne La Rosa

The controversy surrounding schools bearing Confederate names brings into question how figures like Sidney Lanier deserve to be recognized. Vanished in the Unknown Shade, a biography of Lanier, was a small local project for us at NewSouth Books, the 9781603062619-Perfectchance to work again with the talented and irrepressible Helen Blackshear, former poet laureate of Alabama, in the year before she died. Her short study of Sidney Lanier interested us, in part because so little about the poet had been written.

Lanier fought as a young man on the side of the Confederacy in the Civil War. Shortly thereafter, he lived in Montgomery, working as a desk clerk at a local hotel and as an organist at a church in nearby Prattville; a city high school took his name. Lanier was a talented musician and later became a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University. He wrote poetry for much of his life. His verse captured the agricultural landscape of his home, romanticized the Old South, and was often written in dialect or archaic English. Thus he was dubbed “poet of the Confederacy.”

Now, at a time of great social unrest, when we as citizens of this great country have fresh reasons to want taken down monuments to those who  Sidney_Lanier_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16622were blind to the sins of slavery and segregation or, worse yet, who actively participated in these systems of oppression, we must ask ourselves how we can frame balanced judgment about such people. Sidney Lanier’s name will be removed from the high school that sought to honor him in its taking, as reported by WSFA. NewSouth believes this is necessary and just. Still, there is value in Lanier’s literary legacy, which we commend you not to forget.

NewSouth mourns the passing of Constance Curry

Monday, July 13th, 2020 by Suzanne La Rosa

We mourn the recent loss of Constance “Connie” Curry, eighty-six, a friend of NewSouth Books and a chronicler of those who made a progressive difference in the civil rights era. An activist with a long history at the Student Nonviolent Coordinating connieCommittee and other civil rights organizations, Curry was on the right side of history; better yet, she has recorded and preserved history, some of which she experienced first-hand. A summa cum laude graduate of Agnes Scott and a Fulbright scholar, at the young age of twenty-three Curry was selected to be an adult advisor in SNCC, a position of great import considering the organization’s impact on the movement. Through her reports on sit-ins to friendly media and other outlets, Curry can be credited with spurring on a positive outlook on peaceful resistance. She was also a white volunteer in Freedom Summer in Mississippi in 1964. Beginning that year, Curry worked eleven years for the American Friends Service Committee, promoting school desegregation in Alabama and Mississippi. Connie would later become an author. In her Lillian Smith Award-winning work of nonfiction, Silver Rights, and in other works she has midwifed or co-written—Bob Zellner’s The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, now a classic about the movement, and Deep in Our Hearts among them—she ensured that the remarkable stories of activists like Julian Bond, Zellner, Bob Moses, Charles Morgan, and many others would survive for future generations. The staff at NewSouth Books enjoyed a long personal relationship with Connie. Co-founders Suzanne La Rosa and Randall Williams fondly remember her fearless intelligence and independent spirit, and her love of good talk, good times, and good people, all reflective of her Irish spirit (she was the daughter of Irish immigrants). We miss her. More information about Connie can be found at the SNCC Digital Gateway website.

Ken Woodley, author of The Road to Healing, provides spiritual guidance in difficult times with April meditations for Forward Day by Day

Thursday, April 9th, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

Ken WoodleyKen Woodley is strong of character and driven by heart. These qualities emerge in high relief in The Road to Healing, his history of Massive Resistance in Prince Edward County following Brown v. Board that also describes his years-long effort to secure reparations for those affected. For those of us who know Woodley (who is also a lay minister), it’s no surprise that he’s been invited as a guest contributor for the entire month of April on Forward Day by Day, which provides daily religious meditations in print and online in English, Spanish, braille, and via audio. Certainly we can use his wisdom now. Find his April meditations at Please also enjoy this short video of Woodley reading from The Road to Healing, which he provided among alongside many of our authors as part of a project for readers in quarantine.

First biography on Jack Brooks, The Meanest Man in Congress, garners national attention for important legislator

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

1588383210All this talk about the office of the President, be it how Trump is or is not fit for it or who among his Democratic challengers represents our best chance for positive change, reminds us of the strength and character of Jack Brooks, perhaps the best-suited analyst of the Oval Office in our history. A Texas Democrat, Brooks served for nearly fifty years under ten presidents, some of them among our best (John F. Kennedy), our worst (Richard Nixon), and our most complex (Lyndon B. Johnson). With the recent release of the first biography on his life, titled The Meanest Man in Congress, the late Jack Brooks has finally begun to receive the recognition he deserves for his political acumen and ability to work both sides of the aisle in pushing through important (i.e., the Civil Rights Act) legislation. Several book events have brought Brooks’s story to interested audiences, including a singular program with opening reception at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. There, moderator Henrik Hertzberg (The New Yorker) spoke with co authors Tim and Brendan McNulty about Brooks’s legacy to a packed house. The program can be viewed thanks to C-SPAN’s Book TV. In a related development, The Jack Brooks Foundation was officially launched, an organization devoted to perpetuating Brooks’s ideals and legacy. A first initiative: The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History is partnering with the foundation to digitize Brooks’s papers so that they are available to political historians and scholars in the years to come.

Inspiring story of Benjamin Sterling Turner shared in new children’s book embraced by Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Monday, March 16th, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

Neither Congresswoman Terri Sewell nor Benjamin Sterling Turner were born in Dallas County, Alabama, but both came to IMG_1175represent the 7th District of Alabama with fervor and dedication. Turner was born a slave and rose to be Alabama’s first African American representative in Congress. 140 years after Turner took office, Terri Sewell was put in charge of the 7th district, the first African American woman to do so. After the recent publication of The Slave Who Went to Congress—an illustrated children’s book detailing Turner’s early life and political career—Congresswoman Sewell visited Clark Elementary in Selma with authors Frye Gaillard and Marti Rosner and gifted students there fifty copies of the book. Sewell movingly told the schoolchildren attending her program that she “stands on the shoulders of Benjamin Sterling Turner,” who paved the way for her civil service with his bold
FrontCover choice to run for office. This incredible intersection of history reminds us of how important historymakers like Turner and Sewell are; the effects of their leadership can be felt in Dallas County today. The Slave Who Went to Congress—which the Midwest Book Review calls “a choice pick for personal, school, and library collections”—is a powerful account of an impactful life and, importantly, introduces Turner’s remarkable story of bravery and leadership to children around the world.

Overturning Brown sparks national media attention with timely critique about the discriminatory roots of “school choice”

Monday, March 2nd, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

1588384209 72As school choice sparks national conversation–from the State of the Union address, where Trump derided ‘failing government schools’ and touted legislation that would divert up to five billion dollars in federal funding to private schools, to the Democratic debate stage in South Carolina–Steve Suitts’s incisive, timely analysis, Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement, is already gathering well-deserved attention and praise. Booklist called it “a masterful, highly readable account of an American tragedy,” and Publishers Weekly said: “Suitts presents a damning portrait of the historic motivations behind privatization. Teachers, policy makers, and progressive activists would do well to take heed.” In a Washington Post column, Jay Mathews deemed Overturning Brown “a provocative argument on segregation, school choice, and shared language.” Get a preview of some of the book’s key arguments in Steve’s recent op-ed in the Daily Beast, check out the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for an alarming history of the term “government schools,” and listen to Steve’s interview with the New Books NetworkOverturning Brown has also earned praise in Kirkus Reviews,  Forbes, and the ProgressiveAnd stay tuned: Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “On Second Thought” will air an interview with Steve on March 27, in advance of his Carter Center event with Shirley Franklin on March 31. In the weeks and months to come we expect we’ll hear a lot more about Overturning Brown and its compelling, essential call for genuine education equity.

Kathryn Tucker Windham Jeffrey story read aloud by daughter for Halloween

Thursday, October 31st, 2019 by Brian Seidman

For Halloween 2019, Dilcy Windham Hilley–daughter of legendary Southern folklorist Kathryn Tucker Windham–helped us arrange this treat for our readers: an abridged audio recording of “A Promise Kept,” one of Windham’s selections for Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories. For Southerners, and many outside the South, Kathryn Tucker Windham’s beloved Jeffrey’s stories are practically synonymous with Halloween. These are the perfect blend of reality and imagination with a dash of spooky atmosphere, just true enough to scare more than your average tall tale. Enjoy this special audio recording and order your copy of the book for your pleasure next year at

Publication of Magic in Stone, new book on Sylacauga’s marble legacy, is celebrated with festive B. B. Comer Library event

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019 by Matthew Byrne

In celebration of the publication of Ruth Beaumont Cook’s new history of Sylacauga marble, Magic in Stone: The Sylacauga Marble Story, the B. B. Comer Memorial Library pulled out all the stops for a very special launch event that brought in some impressive company, 72300190_10157779298572009_1581670927077212160_o71805579_10157779312067009_2185124230281035776_n71768412_10157779312307009_2505295363385065472_oincluding library patrons and friends, the mayor of the city of Sylacauga, Jim Heigl, and special guests Craigger Browne, Marcello Giorgi, and Frank Murphy. The event was organized by Ted Spears of the Sylacauga Marble Festival and Shirley Spears and Tracey Thomas of the library. The hundred-plus attendees enjoyed a wonderful reception, followed by a presentation by Cook based on her book, which represents years of research on the internationally famous Sylacauga marble quarry, the first history on the subject ever. Truly this was an event worthy of the story Ruth Beaumont Cook has to tell!

Praise for Magic in Stone has come from many quarters already. See what historians Dr. Leah Atkins and Aileen Kilgore Henderson have to say about the book:

Magic in Stone is a story on a grand scale befitting its subject: marble, which formed with the first seashells that compacted underneath the continental shelf and resulted millions of years later in magnificent works of beauty by giants of talent and fame. The gifted Moretti, the loyal women in his life, and the emergence of an Alabama marble industry and quarry town. This history and much more is told by Ruth Cook in a memorable and richly detailed book. — Aileen Kilgore Henderson, author of Eugene Allen Smith’s Alabama: How a Geologist Shaped a State

From Ruth Cook comes an enjoyable and important work of history about Sylacauga marble — the artists who worked with it, the village that grew up around it, the industry that developed out of it. This excellent book tells the story comprehensively for the first time. It is rich in detail and full of surprising, delightful tidbits about a resource few of us in the state know much about. What a treasure for us as Alabama historians, as Alabama citizens! — Leah Rawls Atkins, Director Emerita, Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities, Auburn University